Friday, October 06, 2006

To Boldly Go...

or, "Infinitive-Splitters Anonymous"

"Hi. I'm Mrs. Chili, and I'm an Infinitive-Splitter."

I've been reading through a bunch of the things that I've written over the past year or so. I pulled a couple of my college papers from a file I found in the attic while searching for a particular sweater (the Great Clothes Switch of 2006 will happen later this weekend, but I wanted the sweater NOW, dammit!). I've been re-reading blog entries and comments, and I've made a discovery. I split infinitives. Not only do I split infinitives, but I do it all the time:

"...I was relieved to finally see that...."

"...I hope to never have to do that again..."

"...and when it came time to truly step up to the plate...."

"...she has to constantly be in the spotlight..."

I can't help myself; I love the emphasis that split infinitives convey.

I just hope none of my students calls me on it...


Blogger Kizz said...

Lesson on what the right way to do it would have been please?

October 07, 2006 11:27 AM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

The prevailing wisdom is that infinitives (the "to" version of the verb - "to go" "to eat" "to drive") should never be split. According to my Webster's New World English Grammar Handbook, the "rule is a holdeover from early studies of English based on observations about Latin. In Latin, infinitives cannot be split because they are single words, not two words as they are in English. Because splitting the infinitve is still often frowned upon, you probably should avoid doing so as often as possible. But at times, awkward constructions may result, and you must decide whether splitting the infinitive or sounding awkward - or even inane - is the greater error."

October 07, 2006 1:17 PM  
Blogger Kizz said...

Um, not to be a problem or anything but can I get a side of examples with that lesson?

October 07, 2006 10:07 PM  
Blogger Mrs.Chili said...

Not a problem at all!

In many other languages (most, actually), the infinitive (the "to" form of the verb) is one word. "caminar" is "to walk" in Spanish, for example. In English, we have two words to express the infinitive ("to walk") and because there are two words, we can put something else in between them ("to drunkenly walk"). There's an old grammatical rule in English that one shouldn't split infinitives, though there's really not much of a reason, per se (see the Webster's explanation above). My guess is that the infinitive case of the verb should be considered ONE word and there shouldn't be something splitting that one word (kind of like saying "unfuckingbeliveable", you know?).

I tend to prefer the way split infinitives sound. "Never to go" sounds more awkward to me than "to never go," and I really like the emphasis that split infinitives convey. If I were going to be old school about it, though, I'd have to knock it off - or at least 'fess up to it when I'm called on it.


October 07, 2006 10:39 PM  

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